The Congress has been waiting for some good news to emerge from the different phases of voting. I believe that the 4th phase has given the party its first piece of good news.
The question is: has it gained sufficiently to be the single largest party? As yet, it does not seem so.
Let us look at the trends (I am afraid I don't have enough data or credible reports from West Bengal as yet):
- The quantitative reports from Delhi indicate a clean sweep by the Congress. Reports say the BJP appears to be putting up a fight in New Delhi and , against heavy odds, in Chandni Chowk and South Delhi. There are reports of heavy Sikh voting for Congress in West Delhi. However, there was also a very heavy middle class turnout and indifferent turnout in the Muslim quarters of Old Delhi (but heavy Muslim voting in East Delhi). This has given the BJP a small glimmer of hope. I feel the Assembly results may be replicated in the Lok Sabha and it will be 6-1 for the Congress. If these reports turn out to be true, the BJP should reflect on the wisdom of keeping its old Delhi leadership intact.
- The BJP-RLD alliance has performed extremely well in western UP. Its vote share may be as much as 32 per cent which, in multi-cornered contests, could mean a total of between 8 and10 seats in the 4th phase.
- Reports suggest that the Congress and BJP polled almost equally in Rajasthan. One possible outcome is 11 seats for both Congress and BJP, 1 for CPI(M) and 2 for others (Buta Singh and Kirori Lal Meena). The maximum forecast for Congress is 13 out of 25.
- The BSP and Bhajan Lal's party took large chunks of votes in Haryana from the Congress. This has put a weak BJP-INLD alliance in the fight. Estimates are Congress 5 to 6, BJP-INLD 3 to 4, BSP 1 and maybe 1 for Bhajan Lal's party.
- Four seats polled in Punjab in phase 4. A resurgent Congress may be able to pick up anything between 2 and 3. The Akali Dal may hold on to Bhatinda. The Dera Suchha Sauda has come out in full force for the Congress.
- There were three Bihar seats polling. It is likely to be BJP-JD(U) 2, RJD 1. Lalu looks like getting through narrowly.
- The Trinamool Congress workers were very aggressive in Midnapore but overall, the Left feels it is making a dent in Congress strongholds. I am informed that it will be touch and go for Pranab Mukherjee.
At this stage the BJP still looks like emerging the single largest party. One IB estimate received late last night says BJP 147, Congress 139. This may explain the stream of overtures from the Congress to the Left.
A pollster whose conclusions are contrarian (but often accurate) says that of the 457 seats polled to date, the projections are: BJP 154 and allies 42, Congress 123 and (pre-poll allies) 24. This makes it NDA 196, UPA 147.